No. There is no selective per-comp import. You import everything and then delete the unneeded stuff. One of those old standing ridiculous issues, considering that you can load just one comp via Dynamic Link in other video apps... Well, one of those days perhaps... For the tiem being a script that handles the import and deletion is your best bet...
well that's a little disappionting.
I guess I could just create a new project file for every single "view" of each character.
or do you think using a script would be easier? Where would I get this script?
You're over complicating your project. Let's get some terminology correct. There is a Project file. It's the .aep file you save from AE. Inside the Project there are Comps and Assets (footage, images, audio, solids). I think you want to create a master comp that has all of the elements you've created in these character comps. Then you want to edit just one of the characters and save that as a single new comp. If that is it then read on:
Import the Project files for your different characters into a new project. They will come in with folders. Each folder for each project file will contain all of the footage for that project and all of the comps in each project. It will be easy to keep them straight.
Now all of your character assets are in one place ready to make animation ready. Save the comp.
When it comes time to animate a single animation ready character just set up a new comp in this master and bring in the elements you need from all the folders. If you are starting from an existing comp you can either duplicate it and rename it or use it as it is. Before you do anything else save the project under a new name. When you have completed the project select only the comp or comps you want to keep in the Project Panel and then select File>Reduce Project. Every Other Comp in the project will be eliminated. Every imported asset not used in the comp will be eliminated and you'll end up with only the assets and the pre-comps and the comp you have selected in the project. Save again and you're done. This sounds like exactly what you want to do. A master comp with all of the assets to work from, then a comp for a single animation.
thanks Richard, that makes sense. You are right, I tend to overcomplicate things with After Effects. I'm glad to be learning and to have such a helpful community!